No. 5 Tar Heels Take Down No. 12 Irish, 5-2
CHAPEL HILL --- No. 5 North Carolina defeated its second top-15 opponent in as many matches Saturday when the Tar Heels topped No. 12 Notre Dame, 5-2, at the Cone-Kenfield Tennis Center. Gina Suarez-Malaguti, Jelena Durisic, Lauren McHale and Haley Hemm were singles winners for UNC, who also swept the doubles point in improving to 5-0 on the season.
The Tar Heels came out firing on all cylinders in doubles, quickly winning matches on courts one and three to grab the point. Suarez-Malaguti and Zoe De Bruycker proved to be a formidable pair in their first appearance together of the dual season, cruising to an 8-1 victory over Kristen Rafael and Julie Sabacinski at No. 3. Eighth-ranked Shinann Featherston and McHale then sealed the point with an 8-3 victory over Kristy Frilling and Shannon Matthews.
With the point decided, Durisic and Tessa Lyons completed the doubles sweep on court two, topping Jennifer Kellner and Chrissie McGaffigan in a tiebreak, 8-7 (6).
"I thought we played really well in doubles," head coach Brian Kalbas said after the match. "The girls have done a nice job of gelling with each other regardless of who we put out there in the lineup."
Notre Dame (2-2) showed no ill effects from doubles, however, as the visitors raced out to the lead with first-set wins in four of six matches.
The Irish tied the overall match at 1 with Matthews' 6-3, 6-3 win over Featherston at No. 2, then moved ahead courtesy of Frilling's 6-3, 6-2 victory over De Bruycker at the top position.
With the remaining four matches headed for three sets, the homestanding Tar Heels found themselves in need of a rally.
And a rally is what they got, with Durisic fighting back from down a set to beat McGaffigan at No. 4, 2-6, 6-3, 6-4, and Suarez-Malaguti doing the same at No. 3, topping Rafael, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
McHale, who saw a match point saved by Notre Dame's Kellner in the second set, completed the comeback with a three-set victory at No. 5, 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-2.
Hemm, who also needed a third set after dropping a second-set tiebreak, gave UNC the match's final point with a 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3 win over Sabacinski.
"To beat a team that played as well as Notre Dame did today, and to do it by winning four three-setters, I think this can be a turning point for our team," Kalbas said. "We got down in a few matches but we kept fighting. I think today showed that we're going to battle at all six positions every time out and I was really impressed with how we picked each other up."
Things will get no easier for Carolina in the coming weeks, as the Tar Heels welcome No. 2 Florida to town on Feb. 12 before heading to Charlottesville, Va., for the ITA National Team Indoor Championships Feb. 18-21.
No. 5 North Carolina 5, No. 12 Notre Dame 2
1. #8 Featherston/McHale (UNC) def. Frilling/Matthews (ND), 8-3
2. #80 Durisic/Lyons (UNC) def. Kellner/McGaffigan (ND), 8-7 (6)
3. Suarez-Malaguti/De Bruycker (UNC) def. Rafael/Sabacinski (ND), 8-1
Order of finish: 3, 1*, 2
1. Kristy Frilling (ND) def. #13 Zoe De Bruycker (UNC), 6-3, 6-2
2. Shannon Matthews (ND) def. #54 Shinann Featherston (UNC), 6-3, 6-3
3. Gina Suarez-Malaguti (UNC) def. Kristen Rafael (ND), 2-6, 6-4, 6-4
4. #92 Jelena Durisic (UNC) def. Chrissie McGaffigan (ND), 2-6, 6-3, 6-4
5. #86 Lauren McHale (UNC) def. Jennifer Kellner (ND), 6-2, 6-7 (3), 6-2
6. Haley Hemm (UNC) def. Julie Sabacinski (ND), 6-4, 6-7 (5), 6-3
Order of finish: 2, 1, 4, 3, 5*, 6